[Back to review index]

A Review of Bibleworks 6.0

National Catholic Education Association's Seminary Journal (Volume 10, No. 1, Spring 2004)

" . . . and with much conviction." 1 Th 1:5

by Paul E. Fitzpatrick, S.M.

In 1 Th 1:5 Paul assures his community "For our gospel did not come to you in word alone, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with much conviction." While the comments I will make below make clear the superior quality of Bibleworks 6.0, I chose as the title for this article " . . . and with much conviction" because I want to frame, from the outset, the significance of using such a precision instrument. We who teach Scripture in seminaries do so in order that our students might better preach the Scriptures. Before anything else I offer for your consideration that Bibleworks 6.0 (and all the versions which have preceded it) is a valuable tool because it allows one preaching the Word to preach with greater command of the material and increased confidence. Those preaching have been able to do their own research and are not just passing on someone else's exegesis. This better enables them to preach the Word with humble conviction and in that, hopefully, the grace of God will be more manifest.

I am no stranger to Bibleworks. Early on, I became convinced not only of its usefulness for research and exegesis, but also of the superior quality of the program in comparison to other Bible Study Software I had used in the past. During my studies in Rome, when I needed advanced research tools not offered in the software program I had, I purchased Bibleworks 4.0, and I happily found that it was not only more technically advanced but also much more "user- friendly" and resourceful than the software I left behind. Both in preparation for exams and in writing my dissertation, the searches that I could do with Bibleworks 4.0 dramatically shortened the amount of time I spent looking through bible texts and reference works for the information I sought. I entered both exams and defense with greater confidence.

Later as a teacher at the seminary, Bibleworks 5.0 gave a thoroughness to my class preparation by allowing quick compilation of lists like Christological titles when discussing the theology of Matthew, Mark and Luke in a course on the Synoptic Gospels. Teaching the prophet Hosea in the Prophets and Writings course, I could promptly do a wildcard search for all the occurrences of hesed and da'at which produced all the verse references in less than one second. Then the Bibleworks Program allowed me to generate a copy of the text of those verses for my notes which could be presented and discussed as examples in class. My students left with much more complete data, provided for them almost instantly. By my doing those searches in class with an LCD Video Projector, the seminarians grew in a firmer conviction of the message they were being empowered to preach, precisely because they had been involved in the experience of both the search and the results that the search yielded. In the course on the Introduction to the Pentateuch and Historical Books, using the mouse on the Hebrew text of Genesis 3, I was able to illustrate from the parsing and lexical information listed in the box below that the serpent's address was to Adam and Eve (the verb is 2nd person, masculine plural), significant data for undoing shibboleths about female culpability in the Fall. In the same course the seminarians were assigned to look up the places in the Book of Deuteronomy where the word "remember" was used and to discuss the significance of religious memory in the verses their search yielded. In the course on the Synoptic Gospels, with the help of the LCD Video Projector, I was able to put parallel passages from Matthew, Mark and Luke on a screen in the front of the room for class discussion on textual variations and their significance for the theology of the three evangelists. If a set of parallel passages weren't there I could easily edit the list and add them. How amazed the seminarians were when I showed them the 92 Bibles in 28 languages that would help them provide bulletin inserts of Sunday Lectionary readings for people newly arrived to the US, regularly attending Sunday Eucharist, but not a large enough presence to require a Liturgy in their own native language. The more technologically inclined among the seminarians needed no help in diving into Bibleworks and profiting from all its advanced research tools. The less technologically inclined of the seminarians still found the program "user-friendly" enough that they were not cowed by the prospect of using it again for further research. All acknowledged what a tremendous asset it was in studying the text. The experience of being able to do the research gives the seminarian a sense of mastery that supports both faith and preaching.

We have been using Bibleworks 6.0 in class and in the Library Computer Center now since we upgraded in mid-November. Students remark on the advantage of being able to do text highlighting. They find the new cloning feature, being able to set up a new Bibleworks window without losing the original work, to be very helpful. All who commented found the program more "user-friendly" than other Bible Study Software they had used and found the manual well-indexed, the online support very helpful and the four hours of demonstration videos more than adequate to answer any questions they had. For myself, I have already taken advantage of the Gesenius Grammar and used it to explain grammar points in the text. The Greek/Hebrew Paradigms are helpful in illustrating the grammatical use of words in the original language. Showing the use of the word "oneself" in the Greek text of Mk 8:34 ("to deny oneself") and using the paradigms to determine whether it is a direct object, or an indirect object can generate significant discussion. While I have not yet used the Advanced Search Engine in class, I especially see advantage in using the morphological databases there to do a search that could discover possibilities in the text through the use of a word in the original language version and morphological codes for combinations of words that might follow. It could select and produce a list of uses for a word like "faith" or "righteousness" in the text that had not been thought of by the students and yet would provide data for significant discussion on the meaning of the word for the sacred author.

In the Wish List Department, I have two hopes at present for Bibleworks 7.0 or a future edition after that. The first hope would be the inclusion of a Bible Atlas Program hot-linked to the NAB text so that, in homily preparation or text study, biblical sites mentioned in the Lectionary could be located. To view the extent, at various stages, of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah while reading about them, or to get a sense of the geography in the Gospels (including being able to illustrate some of the evangelists' geographical bloopers!) would add a dimension to text study not available in Bibleworks right now. My second hope would be a future inclusion of the extra-biblical texts in the search limits so that I could, for example, do a search on all the references to John the Baptist in Josephus, and, with the help of the LCD Video Projector, we could view and discuss them in class. Those two hopes being offered, it must be said that the advantages of the present version of Bibleworks 6.0 more than justify its purchase, and use before 7.0 comes out. While it is an outstanding precision instrument for text study, even more, it recommends itself because it ably supports a person in preaching the Gospel " . . . with much conviction" (1 Th 1:5).

Paul Fitzpatrick, S.M. is a Marianist priest, teaching Scripture at Blessed John XXIII National Seminary, Weston, MA.


[Back to review index]